By C. Leuch <firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted: May 2001
Summary: Life is hard for an 18-year-old. Especially if you're Clark Kent. But one day, he discovers he can fly, and his life takes a turn for the better. And so he discovers that life maybe isn't all that bad after all…
This is a very experimental piece of writing for me. It was born while I was listening to Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, and I couldn't stop picturing Clark, soaring above the world during the bridge of this song. So I decided to put the piece into words, plotting it to follow the melodies contained in the song. Feel free to put in the song and follow along.
Thanks to Adam for his help.
The usual disclaimers apply.
As soon as he opened the door that morning, Clark knew that the day would be something special. The bright sun hit his face, and he had to squint against it for a moment while his eyes adjusted. Just the sun by itself was enough to perk up his spirits. The winter had been long, and it seemed like years since the clouds had last allowed the blue sky to peek through. But not the slightest hint of cloudiness showed this morning, just blue as far as the eyes could see. The temperature, while still chilly enough to have formed frost on the grass the night before, hinted at a warm afternoon, the first since the fall that had seemed so long ago.
Clark unzipped his jacket the slightest bit and started walking, first out onto the porch, then across the stretch of still yellowed grass on the lawn toward the barn. His father would be following him shortly, he knew. The morning chores were a fact of life on a farm, but breakfast came first, and far be it for Jonathan Kent to miss a good breakfast. Of course, Clark took every opportunity to partake in his mother's cooking as well, it's just that he always managed to finish sooner. He was a fast eater. He was fast at a lot of things, but that was something that he never really admitted to. Being fast was just where the scope of his abilities began, but he could never bring himself to use them very often, not even around his parents.
He knew that they loved him unconditionally, but doing the things he could do, even if it was in their company, always served to make him feel isolated somehow. He didn't know what he was, but he thought that it was safe to say that he wasn't normal, and the powers proved that.
A frown came across Clark's face as he thought of his unusual abilities. He had to admit that they were handy to have sometimes, but if he could will them to go away, he would do so in a heartbeat. All he wanted more than anything else was to be able to blend into the crowd. He tried his best as it was, but deep down inside, he knew he was different. Sometimes he swore that he could see other people looking at him out of the corner of their eyes, their critical glances making him fear that they somehow knew his secret. Then, after a moment of panic, he would gather himself and he would see the fleeting look of the stranger for what it really was. He knew he was paranoid, but his parents had drilled it into him, for his own safety and theirs, too. They loved him and wanted only the best for him, and he would always be grateful for that, and for the eighteen years that they had allowed him to be part of their family.
With a small shake of his head, Clark cleared his mind of the unhappy thoughts. It was a beautiful morning, and he had work to do. He closed his eyes and turned his face skyward, basking in the rays of the sun for a moment before continuing toward the barn. As he neared the structure, he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. Curious, he turned his head to see what it was, and had to smile as he saw an orange cat looking at him. The cat walked in a nervous circle at the door to the barn. Clark stopped and watched it for a moment before crouching down and holding out his hand.
Their farm had plenty of stray cats, but none of them were socialized, necessarily. He remembered that when he was younger, he used to beg his mom to let him take just one into the house to keep as his pet, but she had always flatly refused. Whether he was allowed to keep a cat of his own or not, he still had a soft spot in his heart for them, and he always tried to make the acquaintance of any that he found around the farm.
Red stared at Clark's hand for a moment, and even made a move toward it before suddenly retreating into the barn. Clark knew that he should probably just let the cat go, but his dad still hadn't left the house, and he had a few minutes to kill. He stepped into the barn and immediately noticed how dark it was, especially compared to brightness outside. His eyes didn't seem to mind, and immediately he was able to track the cat's movements.
Clark quickly walked along, watching as the cat made its way to the hayloft. He quietly climbed the ladder and made his way up to the loft. Once there, he engaged his special vision, and was able to see a whole family of orange cats hiding behind a stack of hay. Quietly, he walked toward where they were, watching them through the hay bales. He didn't know why he was pursuing the cat, exactly, except that deep down he had felt a need to connect with it, and he wasn't going to let that feeling go. Animals were wonderful in that they could give and receive unconditional love, not asking any questions or caring that the person wasn't normal or ordinary. People, teenagers in particular, were not that kind. He had friends, certainly, but not any that he had a deep connection with. Not an unconditional bond, like he had with his parents, and a part of him yearned for that, even if it was from an animal.
He was so fixated on the family of cats that he didn't even notice the other stray that had followed him up to the loft. With a quick movement, the cat jumped across his field of vision and onto the bail of hay that Clark was looking through, the look in his eyes saying that he was more than willing to take some of the attention that the other cat had so callously disregarded. Startled, Clark jumped back. He blinked a few times and changed his focus to the new cat, and had to smile at the eagerness that it greeted him with.
As he was about to move forward, Clark became aware that something wasn't quite right. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was just something different about the perspective that he was viewing things from. Out of the periphery of his vision, he noticed that the floor seemed to meet up with the wall somewhere ahead of where he was standing. He focused on that joint, and slowly followed it across, until he got to a spot directly in front of himself. Where the floor stopped. So if the floor stopped there, then what was he standing on? He had to will himself to look down at his feet, afraid of what the answer to his question might be.
Taking a deep breath, he looked down, and saw that he wasn't standing on anything at all. Below him, about fifteen feet down, was the cement slab of the barn, neatly swept, the cows off to the side nonchalantly looking up at him as if a floating man was something that they saw every day. A floating man? The idea that he was apparently being supported by nothing but air finally pierced his consciousness, and suddenly he found that he wasn't floating anymore. Of course it was absurd that he would be somehow suspended in mid-air, he told himself as the ground began to approach him quickly. Then again, he HAD been up there long enough to deduce what was going on, and even though he knew he was capable of quick actions, in the time that he had spent analyzing the situation he had seen the cat's tail twitch back and forth several times.
Physics told him that he should've fallen that fifteen feet in less than a second, but that obviously hadn't been the case. As these thoughts shot through his head, he closed his eyes and began to think upward thoughts. After a couple of seconds, he still hadn't hit the ground, and he opened his eyes to see what had happened. To his amazement, he found himself floating high above the loft. In fact, he was only a couple of feet below the ceiling. A smile crept across his face as he pondered what that meant. He really COULD float! He had thought about going up, his fall had reversed itself, and now he was far above where he originally had been.
So if he thought downward thoughts, what would happen? In answer to his question, he began to glide slowly downward, until his feet gently touched the floor of the barn. The cats forgotten, he turned toward the door and ran, anxious to get outside to test his new skill some more. Floating up and down in a barn was nice, but to be able to do the same thing in the wide open, to actually be able to go up and explore the exquisitely blue sky… That would truly be something. He could fly up to infinity and there would be nothing to stop him.
His hand hit the barn door and he threw it open, only to stop cold as the bright rays of the sun fell upon him. It was strange how something so simple could be metaphorical at the same time. The sunshine pierced his consciousness, and new thoughts began to come to light. It had only been a few minutes ago that he had mentally decried all his powers. He had told himself that he had wanted nothing more than to make them all disappear, yet when this new one suddenly manifested itself, he could barely contain his excitement. If he thought that his other powers were strange, then what about floating? Surely that was unusual.
A sudden jolt of fear tore through him as he thought of the consequences of his newfound ability. He had floated for the first time without even realizing that he was doing it. Luckily there was nobody else to see him. But what if he slipped up and did the same thing in the presence of others? His secret would be out then for sure. But, he reminded himself, when some of his other powers had manifested themselves, he had worried the same the same thing. The heat vision was one that he had worried about in particular.
His first few experiences with that particular power had been purely accidental, and he worried that things would start to spontaneously combust while he was in school. But all the worrying had been needless, and after only a couple of days, he was able to control it. Clark squinted and looked up toward the clear blue sky. It would do no good to worry about such things, anyway. It was not as if his anxiety would make it go away. On the other hand, on a morning such as this, anyone with a several mile radius would be able to see him if he went very far up into the air. But he didn't even know if was able to go that far up yet. The best thing he could do at the moment would be to test his limits and see what he was truly capable of.
Exhilaration replaced his fear at the thought of flying. That he was capable of such a thing nearly left him breathless. If nothing else, it would add some excitement to his day, more than he could've ever hoped for on a routine weekday morning on the Kansas plain. Before making his way toward a more desolated area of the farm, he did another quick check toward the house to make sure that his dad wasn't coming. After the emotional roller coaster that he had been on only a few minutes earlier, he didn't think that he had the heart go back to the old routine, at least not without proving that he could do what he thought he could do.
It took a mere fraction of a second to affirm that he still had time to himself. In a flash, he ran as quickly as he could to the most isolated area of his father's farm. Once there, he looked around, using his special vision to locate anyone within a several mile radius. His fears of being observed were eased when he saw that all the neighbors were busy at work indoors, either attending to their livestock or machinery. That meant that he was free to…
He didn't even have to think the word "fly" before becoming airborne. Suddenly his feet were no longer on the ground, and he was lifting ever so slowly into the air. He looked down in wonder, seeing the thin expanse of air between himself and the ground, marveling at how right it felt to be hovering there. A goofy grin began to spread across his face on it's own volition, and he had to suppress the strong feeling of joy that came with it. It wouldn't do to shoot into the air in a fit of emotion without first knowing how to control his flight skills. Forcing himself to focus on the task at hand, Clark decided that he should first test his limits. He knew that he could go up and down, but could he go forward and back, too? Focusing on an object in front of him, Clark told himself to move toward it, and immediately he started floating in that direction. Turning his head, he focused on an object off to the side and told himself to change course, and he did. All it took was a simple force of will, as if he had some finger pushing a mental button to move him in a given direction. It was almost too easy.
Anxious to get to more complex issues, he nudged himself to move faster. In the blink of an eye, he found himself wrapped around the trunk of a tree on the other side of the clearing. Stunned but unhurt, he slid down to the ground and looked back at where he had been only moments earlier. Maybe this whole flight thing wasn't as simple as he had originally thought. Applying a burst of speed when he was running was no problem — he just told himself to move a little faster, to work his muscles a little harder, and they did. But when he was floating, he wasn't physically doing anything. It was all in his head, and maybe a simple, gentle flip of a mental switch, one right next to his directional buttons, would do the trick.
Slipping into the air, he stilled himself before focusing on the center of the clearing and beginning his forward motion. Gradually, he decided to increase his speed, and this time he didn't overshoot his target. It was all about mind over matter, after all. Diverting his course, he headed back out to the perimeter of the clearing and then made his way around it in a great circle, increasing his speed as he went. Exactly how fast could he really go, he wondered. Around and around he went, and it was almost impossible to tell the passage of time. But a quick glance in the sky showed birds, seemingly suspended in thin air. Instead of falling like a normal stationary object would, they hung there gracefully.
He was traveling so fast that he had literally been thrown out of phase with the rest of the world. His eyes moved downward to the tops of trees, which had been swaying gently in the chilly morning breeze. Now their leaves fluttered lazily, moving as though they were trapped in some highly viscous fluid. It was hypnotic and fascinating, but seemed to violate all the laws of physics. But then again, didn't the whole concept of a man who flew? He had learned enough in his physics class to wonder what Albert Einstein would think about the scene that Clark now saw before him. He wondered if it would be possible to move faster yet, to put himself in a position that the theory of relativity would apply to him. It was an interesting thought, and he wouldn't mind pursuing it sometime, but another thought had entered his head, and he was anxious to explore it more thoroughly.
As he gradually stopped his circuit of the meadow, the world eased back into its normal pace. It was somewhat disorienting at first, and he found that his thoughts were lost as he watched the birds in flight actually start moving again and the trees start swaying with newfound freedom. But as quickly as he lost it, his new thought came back to him: if he could fly this fast, then he could probably go to places all over the United States in seconds. What was stopping him from shooting up into the air and taking off for, say, Kansas City? Or Chicago? Or Metropolis? It was certainly worth checking out, and if the trip would only take a matter of seconds, then certainly no one here in Kansas would miss him at all. Of course, there was the whole matter of being observed in flight, but if he were capable of moving fast enough to see the things that he had just seen, he doubted that the normal human eye would be able to track his movement.
His mind made up, Clark launched himself into the air. He rose for what seemed like an eternity, gauging his height only by the position of the birds around him. When he finally looked down, he was amazed at what he saw.
He had never flown in an airplane, and so he had never seen what the world looked like when viewed from above. The fields of wheat that spread out around his father's farm seemed to stretch into infinity when viewed from the ground. When viewed from the air, the now brown fields seemed all the more vast, interrupted by only the occasional farmstead or small town. He could see roads leading off into the distance, set in regular, one mile square patterns across the landscape for as far as he could see. It was wondrous, but it was also not very easy to tell where anything was. Fortunately, he knew this area, but his scope of intimate geographic knowledge only extended for a few miles around Smallville, which he could see almost directly below him.
Clark wished all of a sudden that he had a map. His only measure of distance on the ground was the system of roads, none of which had names that he could easily tell. Training his special vision on the landscape, he could find road signs and mile markers, and he supposed that those could do for the time being. But searching for those landmarks left no time for observation, for enjoying himself. Maybe he should just go places that he could easily get to, starting with the only big city that he had ever visited. Off to the east, he could see the tall buildings of Kansas City rising up ever so slightly against the gentle curve of the surrounding ground.
With a quick force of will, he was streaking across the landscape. As the city neared and the buildings loomed larger in the sky, the population of the countryside below him began to grow more dense. The long stretches of concrete contained more and more cars, which moved in slow motion. He could see people on lawns and sidewalks, and he wondered if any of them so much as sensed that he was flying in the air above them. It was one thing for him to fly above his father's farm, but it was another to fly above the suburbs, above so many people. All one of them would have to do was look up, and that would be it.
That thought caused him to move faster, and before he knew it, the whole rest of the world stood still. It was less than a second before he reached downtown Kansas City, and he made himself circle above it for a moment. He had made it; he was at his destination, but what to do now? A part of him wanted to fly down there and simply blend into the mass of humanity that he could see gathered in the busy downtown walkways. There was something so exciting about the big city — maybe it was the pace, maybe it was the fact that everyone was anonymous. He could be just another nameless face in the crowd, and nobody would know that just seconds before, he had been in the sky above them. It would make him feel normal, somehow, that even as different as he was, these people who had never met him would accept that he truly was one of them.
Another part of him wanted to retreat back to the farm, for the security of home. Even though he had visited the city before, his home was in the country. It was all he really knew, and all that he had ever experienced. It was scary to think of how vastly different this place was, with its buildings towering up toward the sky. People weren't as friendly here, he knew. But the population was so much more diversified than it was back home, too. Kansas City might be a midwestern city, and it might be small as far as major metropolitan areas went, but in this town, he could hear dialects that he hadn't even known existed. He could witness customs practiced almost exclusively on the other side of the world. The shops contained items he could only imagine — innovations, luxuries, things that farmers could never afford. It was strange, yes, but he just had to go down there and be a part of it, if only for a few minutes. The problem was how to land without being seen. If he could land at full speed, nobody would be able to track him.
But he couldn't exactly land in the middle of a crowd. Not every part of the inner city was bustling with people, though, and it only took Clark a moment to find the lonely, dark expanses that stood between the buildings. Dumpsters hid in the corners, and vagrants crowded around them, practically hidden in the piled of discarded refuse. This was yet another side to the big city that he didn't get to see back home, and it made his heart shudder in sympathy. These alleys and those that called them home were the parts of the city that most people would just as soon forget. It was as if they were there, yet set apart from the world…somewhat like himself.
It was a challenge finding a suitable alley to land in. Although the sun was at such an angle that they were still cast in shadow, most had inhabitants, and he didn't want to risk being seen. After a moment, he found a suitable location, and he made his way to the ground. As soon as hit feet hit the pavement, the world snapped back to its normal pace, and in the sky, just for a moment, he could hear what sounded like thunder. His eyes were brought skyward, and he saw nothing but the same pristine blue sky that had been present above the farm. He was puzzled for a moment, before he realized that what he was hearing was his own sonic boom. He had obviously gone faster than the speed of sound, and as such had created the noise he was hearing. A frown made its way onto his face as he realized that was yet another bit of damning evidence of his escapades above the city. He didn't think that anyone would equate that sound with a flying man, at least not at the time being, but if someone were to see him somehow, that would be another connection that they could make.
The sound disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared, and nobody on the street in front of him seemed to have noticed. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward, and within moments he emerged into the daylight. The people that walked by in front of him formed a stream of humanity, with various currents flowing in different directions. For a moment he watched and listened, observing, soaking in the fine details. On the outside the group seemed fairly homogeneous, dressed in business attire, nobody speaking to anyone else in their rush to get to wherever it was that they were going to. But closer inspection yielded numerous differences. Just the expressions on peoples' faces were a study in contrast — some looked annoyed, others looked incredibly sad, still others seemed strangely blank. Varied lives and varied experiences, all met up on this sidewalk this morning.
Clark joined the crowd, his eyes and ears still taking in all the experiences that the city could hand him. The sound of a solo saxophone reached his ears, and he soon pinpointed a musician playing on the corner up ahead of him. The melodies were strangely beautiful, yet lonely. As the musician played, the crowds simply continued walking, seemingly deaf to the music. Every now and then, someone would stop and drop coins into the open case in front of the man, but most simply moved along. As he neared the street, Clark's eyes were drawn to the large amount of traffic driving by on the street in front of him. Smallville didn't have a single traffic light, and although every kid in school was taught how to handle traffic lights, he had never had to put that knowledge to work in his young life. He waited at the light along with a large group of people, and as soon as they were able to, the group started crossing the street. Clark was amazed at the bravery of some people, who would step off the curb and dodge cars, even before the light told them that it was safe to cross.
He walked another block with the crowd, his ears catching parts of people's muttered dialogue to themselves. Being part of this crowd made him feel alive, and that was new to him. It felt right, though, and he knew that someday he would be back to the city. But his adventures in Kansas City would need to be over soon, especially if he were to get back to the farm before anyone noticed he was missing. With a sigh, he pushed through the crowd and made his way to the group that was walking in the opposite direction. As he passed the musician, he threw a quarter into the case. It was all the change he had in his pocket, but it seemed to Clark that the other man deserved it more.
Clark slipped back into the alley he had landed in, looking around to make sure that it was still deserted, with a quick glance over his shoulder, he drank in the sights and sounds of the city once more. It had been a nice change of pace, and he wished he could stay longer and experience all that there was in Kansas City. With a sigh, he turned his sights upward, and quickly launched himself into the air. As he soared out over the city once more, he could see that time once again had slowed. Making his way back to the west, he flew even higher than before, trying to get a better look at the whole area. He rose into the air, higher and higher, until the city became a mere dot in his vision, He could focus in on anything he wanted to and see so many things, seemingly all at one. But he quickly realized that his higher vantage point also afforded him a view of most of the central United States. If he looked hard enough, he could see the Mississippi flowing to the east of him, and if he really looked hard, he could just make out the Great Lakes to the northeast. These were the major landmarks of his country, and they seemed so very close. In fact…
He put on a burst of speed and soon found himself high above Lake Michigan. Chicago, one of the biggest cities in the country, seemed so small nestled against the western shore of the lake. If that was what Chicago looked like, he wondered what Metropolis looked like. Smallville forgotten, he raced toward the eastern seaboard. The world from this high in the air looked almost surreal. Forests and fields created a patchwork, a sight that he had seen in so many books, but now was able to witness for himself. Only a simple knowledge of the basic geography of the country was needed in order to find his destination. Once over Metropolis he had to marvel at how busy the city seemed, even in comparison to Chicago. In the bay, he could see the large statue donated to the city by the French nearly a century earlier. It was a sight that so many earlier visitors to the city had looked upon with awe, a symbol for everything that America was.
It was no less inspiring today, and Clark felt that he knew what those early immigrants had experienced. He found himself flying closer to the statue, soaking in the finer details that none of the photographs or literature about the structure ever seemed to mention. The slight blemishes, the marks that told of storms survived and structural work done. Those made the statue seem that much more tangible. As he circled around it, he wondered at the changes that statue had seen, the raising of the skyline of the city to new heights, the crime and violence, the conflicts, the sagas of life in the city.
Ahead of him, past Metropolis and its landmark, loomed the Atlantic Ocean. Behind him was the rest of America, the vast expanse of land that had taken him mere seconds to traverse. It had seemed right to cross the mainland of the U.S., natural, but the ocean was the gateway to the rest of the world. The ocean signaled the end of the familiar, the end of the land of baseball and apple pie. On the other side was history, landmarks of the evolution of humanity. Was he up to the challenge of crossing it?
It only took a moment to verify that he was, in fact, willing to take that step. It would take no time at all the cross the ocean, and once across, he could witness things that those back in his hometown had only dreamt of. His mind made up, he flew out over the Atlantic, toward Europe. The ocean was more vast than he could've imagined. Water stretched out as far as the eye could see, broken only by the sight of ships and icebergs, each of which seemed so lonely out among the waves. Finally the lush greenness of the British Isles came into view, and he made his way toward it. He wasn't very well versed in European geography, but he knew enough to be able to pick out the Wall of Hadrian running across the countryside, splitting the island in two. London was harder yet to find, but as soon as he could make out the top of Big Ben, he knew where he was. There were so many things to see — the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower, and the other castles and landmarks that dotted the countryside. He flew over them all, burning their images into his miup to him, and he had to rest.
Settling down into the green meadow, he felt the world once again slow to its normal pace. Clark stood and breathed heavily, images of strange and exotic places racing through his mind. It had all happened so quickly. He had seen almost all the major landmarks that were to be seen in the world, but he hadn't slowed down to truly enjoy it. There was so much that he hadn't seen, though. The poles, the jungles of Africa and South America, the Great Wall… He had been propelled out of sheer need, a hunger that made him want to take it all in. But there would be time, later, to see all that he wanted to see. All he wanted was to be able to enjoy his gifts now.
He looked into the sky, at the light and puffy clouds that floated gently above. They glided along the earth on the winds, lazily taking in the sights below them. It would be truly heavenly to be one with the clouds, with the birds, with the parts of nature that took to the skies naturally. It would be nice to enjoy his flight for once, to let himself be carried wherever the wind was willing to take him.
He thrust his arms straight out to his sides and shot up into the air, closing his eyes and finally letting himself enjoy the feeling of being entirely free; free of the pull of gravity, free of any rules that the earth might have over him. He felt completely alive for the first time in his life. His heart soared, and his spirit filled with joy. How had he lived for so long and never known what it felt like to leave the Earth behind?
Opening his eyes, he allowed himself to take in the whole splendor of the world. The gentle greens of the forests, the deep blues of the ocean, the starkly beautiful whites of the ice at the top and bottom of the world. From above, it all looked like a breathtakingly intricate masterpiece, a work of art so marvelously chaotic yet peaceful at the same time. The pettiness of everyday life suddenly seemed so insignificant when held up against the view that he was now witness to.
As he floated along on the currents of the upper atmosphere, he found himself nearing a storm. His eyes were drawn toward the clouds, watching as their shapes contorted and shifted in ways that would be invisible to an observer on the ground. The wall of the thunderhead would expand, then curl in on itself before pushing further up into the atmosphere, finally spreading out as it hit the limits of the stratosphere. The tiny ice crystals contained in the cloud at that height reflected the light of the sun into bright rainbows of color. Floating further up above the anvil of the storm, Clark could see a burst of electricity shoot out the top of the cloud, spread out, then disappear. It had to be lightning of some sort, but it was like nothing he had ever seen before.
With a mental nudge, he pushed himself out of the current that he had been floating around and circled around the storm. Chain lightning made its way from cloud to cloud, but every now and then he saw the quick burst come from its top, and he couldn't help but marvel at the sight. He knew that airplanes didn't venture as far up into the air as he was presently. He was probably one of a very select number of people who had ever observed such a phenomenon.
Pulling his arms in against his side, Clark turned his course north and east, into the darkness of the other side of the world. As the shadows fell over him, his eyes were drawn to shifting color in the northern sky. He knew immediately what this was. The Aurora Borealis was not visible from Kansas, but it had been something that he had always wanted to see. He halted his forward movement and hung motionless in the sky, drinking in the blues and reds and yellows as they danced in the sky in front of him. A song began to run through his, a mental soundtrack for the epic that was taking place in the night sky. He could've stayed to watch forever, but he felt himself being caught up in the prevailing winds again, and he let them take him away, toward the east.
Clark rolled over onto his back and saw the stars hanging in the sky above him. He knew academically that they were all several million miles from where he was, but the absolute darkness of the sky as he made his way over the Pacific Ocean made them appear that much crisper, as if they were somehow only a short grasp away. As if to test his theory, he held his hand up, but came in contact with nothing but the cool breezes flowing around him. Yet, somehow, he knew that he had seen them all up close, once, a long time ago. He closed his eyes and tried to expand on that feeling. Ghostly remnants of long forgotten emotions swirled inside his subconscious. He could almost hear the distant rumble of thunder, and it was absolutely terrifying. The sound faded, though, and was replaced with just one word.
"Krypton," he whispered as his eyes opened and drunk in the sight of the canvas of stars that stretched out above him. He didn't know what that word was, if it was a name or a place or a noun or a verb, but something told him that the answer lied somewhere out there in the depths of space. For a brief second, he told himself that it was his overactive imagination that was conjuring up words and imagined emotions, but something deep inside himself told him that that was not the case. Behind that word lied the secret to who and what he truly was, where he came from and why he could do the things he could do. But he didn't know if or when he would ever know anything beyond his vague feelings.
As he stared up at the night sky lost in thought, he began to notice that it was lightening. The absolute blackness behind the stars had given way to a deep blue. Turning over on his stomach, he looked toward the eastern sky and noticed that the blue in that direction was lighter yet, fading into red and yellow. As the air currents carried him further along, he could see the bright yellow sun begin to peek above the horizon. Mesmerized, he watched as it rose slowly, the refraction of the atmosphere making it seem enormous in scale. Clark had seen the sunrise above the wheat fields at home, and it had been a beautiful sight, to be sure. But nothing he had ever seen compared to the sight of the sun rising over the earth. He could understand why ancient humans could see the sunrise as a rebirth. From high above the world, the sight of the sun casting its light on the earth for a new day symbolized all that was eternal. For billions of years the sun had risen and set, witnessing the rise and fall of species, of empires, of secrets that man could only guess at. And yet every day the sun still came up, shining its rays on the Earth with the all the promise that a new day held.
It gradually occurred to Clark that an overwhelming sense of calm had overtaken him, filling every portion of his being. The things he had seen and done — drifting on the currents of air, witnessing the interplay between the many forces of nature — he felt almost as if he had seen God. The world was a wondrous place, and to be able to step back and simply observe had given him peace that he had thought was unobtainable. His life had been so tense up to this point, between the changes that he had been going through and the constant fear that he would be discovered and hauled off to a lab somewhere, away from everyone and everything he had ever known. Yet the emergence of this newest power, the ultimate capstone of all that he had gone though, made it all very much worthwhile.
Closing his eyes, he let go of all conscious thought and let himself enjoy just being alive. He loosed control of all his carefully bottled up ability, and let his senses reach out and touch the earth below him. The sound of millions of alarm clocks going off simultaneously reached his ears as he neared the California coast. Radios, televisions, microwaves, cars…a thousand sounds that cried out that it was early morning, all of which he heard at one time. He let himself zero in on one sound at a time, imagining the setting of the sound in his mind's eye, yet knowing that he could just as easily look and see it for himself.
Behind the din of the city, he suddenly heard a cry of alarm. At the same time, his nose caught the scent of smoke, a smell that was amazingly strong considering where he was in relation to the ground. Clark opened his eyes and saw an airplane off in the distance, flames shooting out of its primary engine. At once, all his senses zeroed in on that airplane, and the screams of the terrified passengers pierced his ears. He watched as the stewardesses tried their best to calm them down, but he could also see the fear that lingered just behind their false smiles. The plane was pitched toward the ground, and he could see the pilots fighting the controls for all that they were worth.
The sickening realization that the plane was surely going to crash hit him like a fist in the gut, shattering the inner peace that had so thoroughly overtaken him earlier. He felt helpless at first, but then it slowly dawned on him that he wasn't helpless at all. He had within himself the power to defy gravity. If he could make himself airborne, then surely he could make this plane airborne, too. All he would have to do would be to guide it gently to the ground. It sounded so simple.
Taking a deep breath, he quickly dove downward, below the level of the plane, and flew up underneath it, hoping that nobody would notice his approach. Saving the plane was something that he needed to do, that he couldn't imagine not doing, but at the same time, he acutely felt the need to keep his identity a secret. He listened into the passengers in the cabin, and to his relief, they had all seemed too preoccupied with other things to take any notice of him. He floated along with the bottom of the plane for a few moments, gathering his courage, before finally placing hands on the belly of the aircraft.
It was amazing how massive the plane was, especially when compared to the size of just one man. Flying along with his hands touching its skin, he felt very insignificant, and he wondered how he ever thought that he could possibly do anything to help. Yet, he could almost feel himself connected to the aircraft, if only by virtue of his touch. Testing that connection, he began to push up, hoping to stop the nosedive that that the plane had began to take. It took a little more effort than he had initially thought, but gradually the airplane began to level off. A smile of relief came to his face as the cries of joy from the passengers began to hit his ears. He had done it! He had saved the plane!
It was then that the voices from the cockpit became audible again, voicing their concerns about landing the plane. He looked down and saw that they were still a long way from the ground, and they weren't out of the woods yet. Listening to the pilots as they did a systems check, it became obvious that if the plane were to land, he would have to guide it to the ground.
The thought of what would happen once he brought the plane to the ground caused his stomach to turn over. There would no doubt be emergency vehicles on the tarmac, waiting to act if the inevitable should happen. People would be in those vehicles, and they would be close enough to see him, he was sure. What if the media was there, too? He would be seen, and his life as he knew it would be over. For a moment, Clark pondered just flying off and letting the plane do what it could on its own, but he had felt the plane react, or more accurately, not react, to the systems checks, and if he were to leave, the plane would certainly crash. He would have to live with the deaths of hundreds of people on his head, and he knew he couldn't do that.
The sacrificing of his identity was worth their lives, without question. Clark looked at the ground, then closed his eyes and just for a second let himself enjoy the freedom of flying. This would probably be the last time that he could take to the skies in relative peace, and he would miss it. The sheer joy that he had felt that afternoon, the way his heart had been filled with the beauty of the world…he would cherish it for the rest of his days.
Opening his eyes again, the underside of the aircraft loomed in front of him, and he knew what he had to do. Scanning the surrounding area, he eventually found an airport that he could land the plane at. A review of the signs on the highway leading into the airport told him that it was LAX, and they were obviously expecting the plane to land there. Fire trucks and ambulances raced toward the airport, and he knew that, for once, he had been right to be paranoid. Training his ears on the radio communication between the airport tower and the plane, he began to assert his will, trying to match the efforts of the pilots as he guided it toward the runway.
Nobody seemed to suspect that he was there at all at first, which was a good sign. But as the ground neared, he could see men in the vehicles pointing at him, and he knew what they were saying without even having to listen in. It took all his will to remain focused on the task at hand, but he did, and gently the plane floated to the ground.
As soon as the wheels touched down, he broke contact with the plane and began to run. A quick glance over his shoulder found that the eyes of all those present on the ground were locked solidly on him. They would undoubtedly want to question him, ask him who he was and how it was that he had been underneath the airplane. But suddenly, with a new sense of resolve, he decided that he didn't need to stay there and answer their questions after all. With a burst of speed he began to run faster than the slowing plane, running out in front of it and shooting up into the air. He could hear the gasps of the plane's crew as they finally caught sight of him, and the excited murmur of the crowd on the ground was hard to miss, but he found that he didn't care anymore, that he just had to get away.
He flew straight up into the air, so high that he could feel the air pressure reduce to almost nothing. Only then did he stop and allow himself to look down. The silence at that altitude was absolute, and the rapid beat of his heart thundered in his ears. His sight zeroed in on the scene that he had just abandoned, and for a moment everything on the ground was still. He could see faces pointed up in the air, hands held high to shield the bright sun. Even from his vantage point, he could see their mute fascination.
Willing his heartbeat to steady, he tried to tune his hearing in to what was going on, but it was too far away. Along with the rest of the crowd, he could now see the cameramen. He despaired for a moment that they had caught his exploits on video, just as he had suspected they might. Tenseness seized him once again as he came to the conclusion that his flight from them had been for nothing. Within the next few hours, the story of the plane miraculously rescued by a man who flew would be a worldwide story. But, he asked himself, how good of a shot did they get of him? Only time would tell what came out of this, but he suspected that none of them had gotten a clear shot of his face. They would know his clothes, of course, and he would be sure to dispose of the outfit he was wearing as soon as he got home. But it was still possible that someone would recognize him, clear shot or not.
As the worries and warnings that echoed around in his head, the inflatable chute opened on the airplane and the first passenger emerged. The man dropped down the slide and stumbled out the concrete, collapsing down onto the runway and kissing the ground. Even from far above it all, Clark could see the sun glinting off the tears that streamed down the man's face. His expression was one of sheer relief, and Clark's heart swelled, the pride that the sight gave him replacing his fears. It had been mere moments earlier that Clark himself had felt that simple joy of life, and now, by virtue of one act of moderate heroism, he had transferred that joy to all those people. None of them would ever take for granted a minute of their life after this. Because of him, they were alive.
For a moment he couldn't move. His vision was misting up, and in the corner of his eye, a tear began to form. It was a very gratifying thought to think that he could've made such a difference. He had bemoaned his powers as a menace, and then, later, seen them for the wonder that they were. But they were wasted in merely being used to bring some pleasure into his life. What they truly were was a means for him to make the world a better place. So many people spoke of doing such a thing, especially kids his own age. Some would make a difference, some wouldn't, and most would at least try. But he already had, and no feeling in the world, not even that of flight, could compare with what it felt like to save a life.
The scene continued to play itself out below him, and gradually he turned away. He had been gone long enough; it was time to go home. Back to Kansas, back to the simple, quiet life that awaited him. He knew that once he got back, he would catch himself looking up toward the sky, daydreaming about his adventure. But there would be many more to come, he was sure of it. Someday he would get the opportunity to fly again, and someday he would be able to help. Maybe, as time went on, he would find a way to help outwardly, without fear of discovery. But for the time being, he had this day, and these memories, and he knew his life would never be the same again.